The Rock City archives: 1996

Manchester Orchestra, Rescue Rooms

  • Friday 3rd May 1996
  • Supported by: Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, Bad Books


(This show is now in the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. All tickets are still valid)

“Cope, to me, means getting by. It means letting go, and being OK with being OK,” says Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull. “You can cope in a positive way when bad things happen or a negative way, and that blend was a big lyrical theme for me on this album.”

The Atlanta band found itself at a crossroads as they approached making their fourth studio album -- in between labels, uncertain of Manchester Orchestra’s future for the first time since Hull started the band almost a decade ago. He was barely finished with high school back then, and now Hull and his bandmates were transitioning into the adult reality that shit happens. They’d learned a bit about letting go themselves.  So Manchester Orchestra regrouped. They built a studio with their own hands, and spent month after month workshopping new tunes, writing and demoing together in a room -- a process that was completely new for them. The change did them good. Witness the title track: COPE takes its name from the track that closes its unrelentingly heavy thirty-eight minutes with the strongest blow of them all. The behemoth “Cope” was written during one of the earliest sessions for the album, and it helped chart the course for everything that followed.

Manchester Orchestra had undertaken a process of writing and demoing a new song every single day, with Hull composing lyrics as they went. “Sometimes when you’re making up lyrics on the spot, God will drop one on you that you didn’t intend,” says Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull of writing “Cope.” “There’s a lyric, ‘And I hope if there’s one thing I let go, it is the way that we cope. I remember being like, ‘Fuuuck, that’s really cool,’ and getting kind of teary about it. It was like, ‘alright, now we have our starting point.’”  For their previous LP, 2011’s Simple Math, experimentation had been the goal. Hull conceived an epic, memoiristic concept album that featured elaborate arrangements including a string section and children’s choir. Their highest charting album to date, Simple Math also earned widespread critical acclaim, with American Songwriter noting: “They’ve perfected the balance of gorgeous songwriting and rabid musicianship, so we can’t wait to see what they do next.”

But even once they had COPE, it took them a minute to figure out which sonic direction to follow. Working on and off over the course of several months between June 2012 and March 2013, they amassed 28 new songs. “We were writing all different kinds of songs in different genres,” says Hull. Staring down a list of almost thirty demos from the previous year, the singer and his bandmates -- lead guitarist Robert McDowell, keyboardist/ percussionist Chris Freeman, bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very -- came to a realization. “We wanted to make the kind of album that’s missing at this time in rock: something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head every track, something unrelenting and unapologetic,” Hull explains. “Whereas Simple Math was a palate with each song a different color, I wanted this to be black and red the whole time. Our mission statement was to make a crazy-loud rock record.